25 Things To Do In Portland Oregon
Welcome to the beautiful city of Portland, Oregon!
Situated in the northwestern portion of the Beaver State is the coffee-loving, rose-loving, dreamy city of Portland. The Willamette and Columbia Rivers flow around it with the majestic Mount Hood standing tall in the background. Only 80 miles from the Oregon Coast, Portland is the perfect place to have a bit of a city life and escape to tranquility a short distance away.
If you are planning a trip to Portland, Oregon, it is a great idea to plan your itinerary ahead of time. You may be asking yourself: “What is there to do in Portland?” Portland is thriving with experiences, activities, and sights to see. Please follow me along for a list of 25 things to do in Portland, Oregon. You may find it helpful as you build your itinerary ahead of your amazing adventure!
1. The Oregon Zoo
One of the most visited attractions in Portland is the Oregon Zoo. Being a part of Washington Park, it is home to approximately 3,000 animals. At the zoo, you will discover 19 endangered species. It is a fun place to take the entire family with over 20 exciting interactive exhibits. The Oregon Zoo is an outdoorsy paradise as well! With the plethora of Oregonian plants, you will feel as if you stepped into a jungle of the Pacific Northwest style.
Amazingly, you can visit animals who are from far away places such as Africa, South America, Australia, and the Arctic Circle. You will also see animals that are native to the Pacific Northwest such as sea otters, sea lions, coastal birds, and more. This is mainly due to the zoo’s conservation efforts with preserving the native wildlife of the Pacific Northwest.
Furthermore, the zoo offers exciting tours, adventurous camps, outdoor concerts, and intriguing classes for folks of all ages. There is something available for everyone.
2. Forest Park
Who says that you can’t experience the great outdoors and the beauty of nature inside the city limits? Portland is already known as being friendly with everything green and doing everything it can to preserve the environment. Therefore, it is no surprise that the largest urban nature area in the country is located in Portland.
Forest Park provides a great escape from the city WITHIN the city. And even better? It’s free! The urban forest is thick, lush, and attractively green with many scenic trails and walking paths. It’s a beautiful place to relax and unwind your mind from the hustle and bustle of the city. You may choose to stroll the scenic paths or ride your bicycle through longer trails. To give you an idea of exactly how large this place is, it has approximately 80 miles of trails in total!
3. Shanghai Tunnels
You can attend ghost tours and cultural tours at the Shanghai Tunnels. But what is it, you may ask?
The Shanghai Tunnels are part of the Portland Underground system that has a history as far back as the year 1850. Legally, the tunnels were used as easy transport to the city businesses and the Willamette River docks. However, they were also illegally used for darker purposes. While some of the stories may only be myth, there is bound to be some level of truth found somewhere in the mix. During the Prohibition Era, folks transported alcohol through the dark tunnels. Other folks had drug dens.
Furthermore, the tunnels are rumored to have hosted the activities of kidnapping for human trafficking, slavery, and prostitution. The action was none as, “Shanghaiing”. Therefore, this dark history has made the tunnels a place of interest to society today. The Cascade Geographic Society hosts the tours should you find it an interesting place to add to your itinerary.
4. Pittock Mansion
If you love historical homes, look no further than the Pittock Mansion. A staggering 16,000 square feet in size, this French Renaissance home was constructed in 1914 for Henry and Georgiana Pittock. Mr. Pittock was a leader in the city and waited until old age to build his dream home. It is a fascinating place to visit for those who adore interior and architectural design as it has 23 rooms in total. You will see a large, well-stocked library, music room, sewing room, Turkish smoking room, refrigerator room, and an antique elevator! I especially love the elegant, angled staircase. To me, it looks like a staircase straight from the Titanic. Absolutely beautiful!
5. International Rose Test Garden
Portland is known worldwide for its roses. This is why the International Rose Test Garden is one of the most popular sites in town. The rose garden was created in 1917 for the purpose of preserving European roses from destruction during the first world war. In the garden, you will find over 10,000 roses dotted across five acres of protected space.
While you can visit the garden at any time of the year, you should visit during the late spring and summer if you want to see all the roses in full bloom. The view is stunningly beautiful! Even more interesting about this place are the gardens within the garden. For instance, the Miniature Rose Garden only contains the small rose blooms. And since Portland loves Shakespeare, there’s the Shakespeare Garden where all the roses are named after his famous characters!
It doesn’t cost a single penny to explore the International Rose Test Garden. Whatever you do, don’t forget your camera!
6. Portland Art Museum
The Portland Art Museum is a special place in the state of Oregon and should not be missed whenever you visit the city. It is the oldest art museum in the entire Pacific Northwest region and contains more than 40,000 works of art. Some of the many things you will find in the art museum are English silver artifacts, contemporary American art pieces, European art pieces, Native American artifacts, superb photography, Ansel Adams art pieces, Asian art, and so much more. The museum is so large that it may take more than one visit to soak in all the sights!
7. Multnomah Falls
You can’t visit Portland without seeing the most visited waterfall in the Pacific Northwest: Multnomah Falls. Standing at a height of 620 feet, the waterfall attracts visitors from all over the country. While it is not inside the city limits, it’s only a 30 minute drive from the city. People love to take selfies in front of the waterfall and the infamous bridge. So, be prepared to have your camera or smartphone with you so you can knock one more thing off that bucket list!
Nearby, you will find the Multnomah Falls Lodge where you can purchase memorable items from the gift shop and enjoy lunch in their small eatery.
8. The Oregon Historical Society
Located in downtown Portland, the Oregon Historical Society opened its doors in 1898 and has served the community ever since. In there, you will find over 85,000 historical items including the infamous Portland Penny. The Portland Penny is special to the city because it was flipped in a coin toss in 1845 to determine the name of the city. It was a classic case of Heads and Tails. The chosen names were Portland and Boston: I’m so glad that Portland won out! The Portland Penny was minted in 1835 in Washington D.C.
You can also view items such as manuscripts, old photographs, old books, and artifacts such as a 9,000 year old leather sandal! It’s the perfect place for any history lover.
9. Portland Troll Bridge
Portland prides itself on standing out and being different. Hence, the city created the phrase, “Keep Portland Weird” to achieve just that: keeping Portland interesting, different, and well, weird!
The Portland Troll Bridge is one of those must-see sites that is working hard to keep Portland weird. The bridge is covered in toy trolls! I have quite a few toy trolls from my childhood and have thought of contributing one to the troll bridge. It would be quite the fun experience! If you have a toy troll with hot pink hair and a funky outfit, be sure to pin it to the bridge. And, as always, take a selfie and post your experience to social media!
10. Mount Hood
Just outside the city is the majestic, white-capped Mount Hood. And, believe it or not, it is also one of the most climbed mountains in the country. However, it is not a climb for the beginner. It’s a dangerous feat and requires climbers who have a ton of knowledge on high altitude hikes. (Mount Hood is approximately 11,000 feet above sea level.) To climb Mount Hood, you must be vigilant at all times and understand what things can hurt you. Melting ice, falling rocks, suffocating fumaroles, slippery surfaces,
With all of that said, once you reach the summit of Mount Hood, the view is beyond incredible.
11. World Forestry Center Discovery Museum
Located in Washington Park, Portland, the World Forestry Center Discovery Museum was established in 1971. The Center’s main goal is to teach folks about the
The World Forestry Center Discovery Museum is another attraction in Washington Park, Portland.
It opened in 1971 and measures 20,000 feet in size.
Its mission is simple but important: it aims to teach tourists and locals of Oregon alike about the importance of trees, nature, and forests in environmental sustainability.
The first floor of the World Forestry Center Discovery Museum covers the ecology of forests and general sustainability through a local perspective, while the second floor widens the scope to a global scale.
The second floor lets you take virtual trips to Russia, China, South Africa, and Brazil to learn about their forests and the unique challenges they face, as well as the relationships between woodlands and the people.
12. Portland Farmers Market at Portland State University
You cannot visit Portland and NOT check out the Portland Farmers Market that is open every Saturday at Portland State University. If you wish to try some homegrown and homemade Oregonian goodies, then look no further than the most visited farmer’s market in the country!
The farmer’s market is so large that it contains approximately 200 sellers who offer yummy goodies such as homemade chocolate, fresh eggs, locally grown fruits and vegetables, organic meats, farm cultured cheeses, lamb, and more!
13. Morrison Street Mini Gallery
If you are on the hunt for finding something unique to set your eyes on, then be sure to visit the Mini Gallery on Morrison Street. Built in 2017, the Morrison Street Mini Gallery is merely a fancy shadow box filled with a miniature outdoor patio scene (at least, for the moment.) The scene inside the shadow box changes from month to month to keep things interesting and fun! Even better? If you visit the mini gallery during the end of its monthly run, you have the option to purchase the miniature items in the shadow box.
Honestly, if you have a young daughter or granddaughter who enjoys dollhouses, these miniature items would be the perfect gift!
If you haven’t heard it already, Portland has a strange slogan that I’ve honestly never heard anywhere else. Simply put: Portlanders do not like being the same as everyone else. They have the desire to stand out and be unique and fun! Therefore, don’t be surprised if you hear Portlanders speak the slogan, Keep Portland Weird.
And the goal of this shop is to do exactly that: to keep Portland weird.
The store was created in 1967 by Conrad Elwood who has always stocked his shelves with the most bizarre products known to man. You will find strange artifacts, creepy creatures, cheesy prank toys, and more. It is basically a museum of everything weird, including a daunting statue of Bigfoot!
If you love everything about aliens, ghosts, monsters, hauntings, zombies, spooky art and strange desserts, then this place is a must-see.
Strange food, you ask?
By strange food, I mean goodies like chocolate covered ants and crickets. Hey, if you are up for the challenge, it’s nice to try something new, right?
15. Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area
Since Portland sits on the Columbia River Gorge, it also offers plenty of adventures with sight-seeing. The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area is the border between Oregon and Washington states. There is a small entry fee to explore the area, but the views make it SO worth it. The area consists of approximately 300,000 acres of land filled with hills, river water, waterfalls, lush trees, and more. It’s a great place to capture spectacular photography and to have a mid-day picnic. My favorite parts of the area are the waterfalls. You can view the following waterfalls in this area: Multnomah Falls, Latourell Falls, and Oneonta Gorge. (I have already told you about the amazing Multnomah Falls. I encourage you to be spontaneous and visit it for a second time!)
If I were you, I would plan to make a day of it!
16. The Wishing Tree
To me, Portland is one of those dreamy cities that you only see in the movies and wish that it existed in real life. The good news? It DOES exist in real life! I don’t know of any other places (I’m not saying there aren’t any other places with this same concept.) that have a wishing tree.
The Wishing Tree is, believe it or not, a new tradition in Portland. In fact, the chestnut tree is not on public property! A local Portlander started the tradition in 2013 when she wrote some of her own wishes on the tree and left town for a little bit. When she returned, she saw that her influence on other people had taken root (No pun intended!) and that more wishes had been added to her tree!
Instead of getting angry with people for trespassing on her property or adding paper to her tree, she LOVED that others took to her idea. Therefore, she decided to give the community a new tradition of placing wishes on the tree. She created instructions for other wishers and placed it on the tree. Officially calling it the Wishing Tree, she instructed wishers to find a blank card hanging from its branches and pen out their wishes.
In my opinion, this small detail made Portland even dreamier than before.
17. Portland Aerial Tram
Do you enjoy scenic rides? If so, you must take a ride on the Portland Aerial Tram. Please keep in mind; however, that this was not created as a recreational ride up the side of a hill. It is technically considered a form of public transport for students and staff to the Oregon University sites. But, no one treats it as such!
The ride to the upper portion of Oregon University climbs 500 feet above the city and provides an incredibly satisfying view of Portland and the Willamette Valley behind it. The tram departs from its upper and lower station every six minutes, giving folks plenty of time to board and off load. It’s a fun experience that doesn’t take up much of your time!
18. Stark’s Vacuum Cleaner Museum
When I am planning my itinerary for a vacation, I add in the traditional activities that are considered to be the main highlights of the area. You know, the places where most tourists can be found. But, I don’t stop there. I also add in areas that are unique or unusual. There’s nothing more fun, in my opinion, than exploring new, unusual places that are hard to find anywhere else.
Stark’s Vacuum Cleaner Museum is one of those unusual places.
Sure, it sounds boring. Vacuums? Really?
Really. This place sits in downtown Portland and has every kind of vacuum cleaner you can imagine! Some of their vacuum cleaners go as far back as 1960 and excite the vintage seeker in me. The museum is filled with antique models of vacuum cleaners and is more interesting than you might think. It is literally like walking down memory lane depending on your age.
Furthermore, if you have any old vacuum cleaners you wish to throw away, donate them to Stark’s Vacuum Cleaner Museum!
19. Lincoln Street Kayak and Canoe Museum
Located on Lincoln Street is a vintage-style, rustic building that houses an admirable collection of kayaks and canoes. You will especially find many canoes, kayaks, and replicas from indigenous people from hundreds of years ago. It has a fabulous history lesson on the creation of canoes and kayaks and perfect for anyone fascinated with history and/or canoeing and kayaking.
A gentleman named Harvey Golden owns the canoe and kayak collection and enjoys creating the replicas by hand. His research is wildly impressive and you will feel as if you have stepped back in time when observing the collection.
He originally started his research for the purpose of understanding the buoyancy of the historical canoes and kayaks and how to improve the operation of current canoes and kayaks. This turned into a fulfilling hobby for him and thus enjoys sharing his collection and finds in the museum.
Be sure to plan a visit to his museum on a Thursday as that is the only day of the week it is open for visitors.
20. Mill Ends Park
Visit Mill Ends Park and you will have visited the smallest park in the world! In 1971, Guinness Book of World Records listed Mill Ends Park in its famous book. Sitting in the median of Naito Parkway, Mill Ends Park is so small that you can walk by it and not notice it. It is roughly two feet wide and is green and lush where a street light should stand.
The only distinction is the sign that reads, “Mill Ends Park”. It really is the cutest thing! The creative atmosphere in Portland never ceases to amaze me, and I believe wholeheartedly that you will feel the same way.
It officially became a city park in 1976 and has since been decorated with the cutest miniature decorations. But, like many other things in Portland, it has an interesting history!
The park was created shortly after World War II by Dick Fagan. He happened to look out his window one day and saw the empty median space where a street light should’ve resided. Mr. Fagan chose to plant flowers in the tiny median space and created a whimsical story on it. Imaginatively, he said leprechauns snuck out in the middle of the night and created the tiny park. Furthermore, he added that he made a wish to a leprechaun for a park and thus, the tiny space was given. For decades, children have been fascinated by the whimsical tale and enjoy visiting the tiny park. Who says that adults can’t enjoy whimsical tales, too?
Do yourself a favor and add this to your itinerary list.
21. Take a Guided Brewery Tour
Portland is serious about its craft beers, and you will learn why after your first taste! In fact, the city is so serious about its craft beer that there are 70 breweries throughout Portland. And I assure you: Each brewery has its own flavors and recipes.
So, with that many breweries dotted throughout the city, how are you supposed to choose the best one to visit?
Treat yourself to a guided tour through the breweries. Yes, it is real!
Brewvana and BeerQuest Walking Tours are my two favorite guided brewery tours. They walk you through the greatest breweries in Portland so you can taste test a drink from each one. Doesn’t that approach make it much easier to determine YOUR favorite brewery? I think so.
Try several flavors and find your go-to craft beer. You will never want to leave the city!
22. Pioneer Courthouse Square
You can’t visit Portland and NOT walk through the Pioneer Courthouse Square. This place is the heart of the city and where all the locals gather just to hang out, take a break from shopping, or grab quick photos with their friends and loved ones.
Walking through the Square will give you the truest Portland experience and make you feel like a local. The buildings and architecture are superb and there is always something ongoing in this space. Believe it or not, around 25,000 people visit the Pioneer Courthouse Square on a regular basis! That’s a lot of footsteps on the sidewalk bricks. (And speaking of the sidewalk bricks, most of them were purchased by donors who placed a brick in honor of a loved one.)
I, personally, enjoy the food trucks that frequent the Pioneer Courthouse Square. You can eat the best fish tacos your taste buds have ever encountered! They are even better if a summer concert is ongoing in the amphitheater portion of the Square.
23. Beverly Cleary Sculpture Garden
Located in Grant Park, the Beverly Cleary Sculpture Garden is an exciting place to visit! If you read the children books by famed author, Beverly Cleary, then you will know the identity three statues. (Or, if you have children who enjoy Beverly Cleary’s books, this would be a great place to take them and quiz them on their character knowledge!) You will see the statue of a dog, boy, and girl having fun in the splashing water. The names of these characters are Ribsy, Henry Huggins, and Ramona Quimby! Don’t worry if you had already forgotten their names; the story titles and names are listed beneath the statues.
The reason for these fun statues existing in the park is to pay homage to Beverly Cleary: Portland is her hometown!
24. The National Hat Museum
If you are a hat lover, the National Hat Museum is a MUST-SEE. You will find hundreds of hats on display that cover nearly all genres and time periods. There are hats from the posh Victorian and Edwardian periods, World War I and II periods, and more. You will also find retro hats, funny hats, and specific internationally-styled hats. You name it, they have it!
The museum is located in the Ladd-Reingold house that was constructed in the early 1900’s. So, not only does this place have many, amazing hats, but its location is historically spectacular. The house reminds me of something you would see in a movie with its many hiding places. Some of the doors are backwards and there are several pocket doors. And I have yet to understand why a mermaid resides on the dining room ceiling? Regardless, it adds to the vibe and aesthetic feel of the entire place.
Long story short, if you love hats, this is the place to be!
25. The Windows of Wonders
The last thing on my list is the Windows of Wonders in downtown Portland. It is another creative expression to the city that makes it stand out from all other cities. You won’t find a ton of tourists pouring into this place because most of them won’t know about its existence. But, you will!
The Windows of Wonders is a special gallery that consists of a storefront window with a miniature world of wonder. (Have you noticed the Portlanders love everything about miniature things?) The artistic creation gives the illusion of peering into another world despite its small size. It doesn’t matter what time of the day you visit the storefront window as it is always lit up for being viewed and admired.
Every piece of the Windows of Wonders is made of recycled wood. You may see imaginative creatures or whimsical nature scenes. Regardless, it takes you back to your childhood with visions of an imaginary world and all the magic held within.
The art is created by Hilary Pfeifer who lives in Portland. She has created many exhibits for display throughout the city for everyone’s imagination to be exercised. After all, it is things like this were the locals strive to Keep Portland Weird.
Bonus Things To Do: